Thursday, May 29, 2008
You know, the ones about war and peace and communism and terrorism and traitors and good guys and bad guys. Some of THOSE type of conversations.
I was trying to understand where those who disagreed with me were coming from. Did they think the US ought NOT obey its own rules? Is it okay to commit what our laws would define as war crimes at times? Who would make that sort of decision? Based on what?
Perhaps it's all a matter of coming from different paradigms and having troubles understanding one another. The conversations would careen around wildly whilst I was just looking for some answers to a few basic questions. (By the way, at least one of these conversations began when someone raised the question of what we should do about Iran and, more generally, is it okay to bomb a nation based on the possibility that they might be a threat eventually to someone.)
After doing what felt like pulling teeth in a few different conversations in a few different places, this is what it sounds like at least SOME folk on the right are advocating. At least, to the best of my ability to understand their views...
1. The US OUGHT to obey US rules.
2. But sometimes, we ought NOT obey US rules (if a country might be a threat to us or Israel, for instance).
3. The US ought NOT obey international rules.
4. Other nations ought to obey international rules.
5. When someone (I never could get a clear answer - the president and the Southern Baptist Convention, maybe?) SOMEONE decides that some nation is a rogue nation, then we are obliged to obey no rules. We may drop nukes, torture, whatever. Once we've (we who? not sure) have established that a nation is rogue, then we are no longer obliged to obey any of our rules.
6. But, of course, torture and dropping nukes by the bad guys is always wrong.
7. And it's usually wrong for us to do it, UNLESS we're dealing with a "rogue nation," then it is good and acceptable for us to engage in such activity.
8. The way we know a nation is a rogue nation is if they do not "play by the rules established by the majority."
9. What that means is, if a nation:
a. sells or gives arms/military support to a "bad" country or leader
b. makes threats to other nations
c. provide training space for soldiers/terrorists from other nations
d. If they "behave like" a rogue nation, then they are a rogue nation
10. But if the US does not play by those rules or if the US behaves in some of these same ways, well, that's good because international laws don't apply to us...
Add to the mix is the notion that "the lesser of two evils is a good," as has been quantified as a value some believe in. What that means is that it is evil to bomb Hiroshima, but it would be MORE evil (they say) NOT to bomb Hiroshima (because this would, they presume, cost more lives ultimately). Therefore, it is NOT evil in that circumstance to bomb Hiroshima, but a good.
Phew! That's the best I can make of their position, which, as you can see, is not entirely consistent or clear on who's making what decisions based on which criteria. I have asked them about it using nearly exactly the same words I have above, and they have not said, "No! That's not what I mean..." and their clarifications have tended to be of the sort, "Dan, what you're advocating is not practical in the real world because..." etc. In other words, they have not directly answered questions or directly dealt with my understanding of their criteria, so it's hard to say for sure if this is their position or not.
It's my understanding of their position.
If I were to engage in a little analysis, I would think they are reluctant to come out and directly answer questions or points because:
1. They want to retain the ability to commit actions that our laws call "war crimes" or illegal
2. They think that our laws make us weaker against those who are not wanting to obey our laws (and you can sort of understand the reasoning - if they're not going to fight by our rules and we insist on fighting by our rules, we are at a disadvantage - I disagree, but you can understand the point)
3. They don't want to subject the US to international laws
4. BUT, if there are no international laws, then there is no real basis on which to hold countries accountable
5. And so their position seems to be lacking in internal logic - it just doesn't hold up to reason - and so they are reluctant to fully analyze their position because it is not especially defensible logically
6. They want to give a president/the US the power to break our laws if we're dealing with a "bad guy" but if a president/the US were to use those same powers to attack, for instance, Israel, well then, they DON'T want to give the president that power; in other words, they want to be able to pick and choose when to obey our rules and not, and they want to pick and choose based on a very loose, subjective criteria (if a nation is a "rogue nation," then it's okay)
You reckon I've understood the position of some on the Right correctly? You reckon I'm getting their reasoning as to why they're reluctant to spell out what rules they wish to live by correctly?
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
(CNN) -- At a time when gas prices are at an all-time high, Americans have curtailed their driving at a historic rate.
The Department of Transportation said figures from March show the steepest decrease in driving ever recorded.
Compared with March a year earlier, Americans drove an estimated 4.3 percent less -- that's 11 billion fewer miles, the DOT's Federal Highway Administration said Monday, calling it "the sharpest yearly drop for any month in FHWA history." Records have been kept since 1942.
So, apparently, $4/gallon is the price break where we start seriously examining our auto dependencies. There had to be some breaking point. Hopefully, this will mark the beginning of wiser days.
Also, wanted to let you know that my own lovely bride (of 23 years, as of this week) preached the Earth Day sermon this year at Jeff St and excerpts from the sermon can be found here.
Thursday, May 22, 2008
(NY Times) Crude oil prices rose yesterday with nervousness over Nigeria's three-week-long oil workers' strike expected to push a test of the key $20-a-barrel level next week, traders said.
(Business Week) Finally, some good news on the energy front. Top representatives of oil-producing nations attending the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, say they want to keep world oil prices well under $30 per barrel -- less than most economists had been expecting. Lower oil prices would give a boost to U.S. and European economic growth and corporate profits.
NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - Oil prices reached a record $50 a barrel Monday as Nigeria emerged as the latest focus for worries about supply in an already tight worldwide energy market...
Investment bank Morgan Stanley said it now believes surging crude oil prices could reach as high as $61 a barrel.
HONG KONG: Crude oil futures hit $70 a barrel in Asian trading Monday for the first time in nearly eight months, lifted by concerns over declining U.S. gasoline stocks, supply disruptions in Nigeria and tension over Iran's nuclear program...
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Despite oil's record high last week, forget about crude going to $100 a barrel.
Prices have already dropped about 7 percent since last week, and are likely to fall even more in the coming years.
Crude may not reach $100 a barrel, but don't look for $20 either.
That's the consensus of analysts, who say rising production, the advent of biofuels, and conservation measures will likely lead to lower oil prices by 2015.
But how much lower is subject to wide interpretations, and estimates rage from $20 to $60 a barrel.
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Oil prices hit a record high Thursday of more than $90 a barrel after reports indicated that the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries has no plans to increase production...
OPEC, which supplies about 40 percent of the world's 84 million-barrel-a-day oil habit, agreed to boost production by 500,000 barrels in September, but the move did little to calm oil prices...
January 8, 2008
HOUSTON — Oil prices briefly reached $100 a barrel on Wednesday, a long-awaited milestone in an era of rapidly escalating energy demand and tightening supplies...
...The spike in crude prices of $3.64 for the day reflected deeper worldwide trends, including the surge in energy demand from China, India and the oil-producing countries themselves.
(CBC News) Oil prices hit an all-time record Wednesday even though a report said U.S. oil supplies rose more than expected last week.
The price of light sweet crude for April delivery rose $1.17 US to finish at $109.92 US after hitting an intraday high of $110.20 US a barrel. The previous intraday high price for oil was $109.72 US, set on Tuesday.
May 5, 2008
(BBC News) The price of a barrel of oil has risen above $120 for the first time, driven by concerns about the situations in Nigeria and northern Iraq.
May 21, 2008
(Telegraph) Investors are betting that oil prices will continue rocketing for years to come, it emerged as the crude price hit a new record high...
Crude rose above $130 a barrel for the first time on the New York Mercantile Exchange, amid concerns that producers' cartel Opec will not boost output in the coming months to rein in prices, and that China will increase its oil imports in the wake of its earthquake.
May 22, 2008 (20 minutes ago...)
(AP) NEW YORK - Oil prices rose above $135 a barrel for the first time Thursday, with supply worries, global demand and an ever weakening U.S. dollar driving crude futures up.
The world’s top energy watchdog is preparing a sharp downward revision of its oil-supply forecast, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal.
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
"War is an instrument entirely inefficient toward redressing wrong; and multiplies, instead of indemnifying losses."
"Believing that the happiness of mankind is best promoted by the useful pursuits of peace, that on these alone a stable prosperity can be founded, that the evils of war are great in their endurance, and have a long reckoning for ages to come, I have used my best endeavors to keep our country uncommitted in the troubles which afflict Europe, and which assail us on every side."
"Nothing but the failure of every peaceable mode of redress, nothing but dire necessity, should force us from the path of peace which would be our wisest pursuit, to embark in the broils and contentions of Europe and become a satellite to any power there."
"The desire to preserve our country from the calamities and ravages of war by cultivating a disposition and pursuing a conduct conciliatory and friendly to all nations [yikes!!] has been sincerely entertained and faithfully followed [during my administration of public affairs]. It was dictated by the principles of humanity, the precepts of the gospel and the general wish of our country."
"I hope we shall prove how much happier for man the Quaker policy is, and that the life of the feeder is better than that of the fighter." [Marxist coward!]
"[Many] years of peace and the prosperity so visibly flowing from it
have but strengthened our attachment to it and the blessings it brings, and we do not despair of being always a peaceable nation. We think that peaceable means may be devised of keeping nations in the path of justice towards us by making justice their interest and injuries to react on themselves."
"I do not believe war the most certain means of enforcing principles.
Those peaceable coercions which are in the power of every nation, if
undertaken in concert and in time of peace, are more likely to produce the desired effect."
"War is not the best engine for us to resort to; nature has given us one in our commerce, which, if properly managed will be a better instrument for obliging the interested nations of Europe to treat us with justice... Our object should now be to... endeavor so to form our
commercial regulations as that justice from other nations shall be
their mechanical result."
"A world in arms and trampling on all those moral principles which have heretofore been deemed sacred in the intercourse between nations, could not suffer us to remain insensible of all agitation. During such a course of lawless violence, it was certainly wise to withdraw ourselves from all intercourse with the belligerent nations, to avoid its pernicious effects on manners and morals and the dangers it threatens to free governments, and to cultivate our own resources until our natural and progressive growth should leave us nothing to fear from foreign enterprise."
"Peace is our passion, and the wrongs might drive us from it. We prefer trying ever other just principles, right and safety, before we would recur to war."
"In the course of [a] conflict [elsewhere], let it be our endeavor, as
it is our interest and desire, to cultivate the friendship of the belligerent nations by every act of justice and of incessant kindness; ["incessant kindness?? What kind of wuss is this?! He'd get eaten alive by Iran!"] to receive their armed vessels with hospitality from the distresses of the sea, but to administer the means of annoyance to none."
All quotes from that liberal weinie and enemy of Democracy, Thomas Jefferson! Man, in some of those, he sounds like he could have written the primer for Glen Stassen's Just Peacemaking book!
I'll end with another enemy of a strong America:
"Allow the president to invade a neighboring nation, whenever he shall deem it necessary to repel an invasion, and you allow him to do so whenever he may choose to say he deems it necessary for such a purpose—and you allow him to make war at pleasure."
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
"This choice was an extremely difficult one, balanced between my dedication to service to our great nation and the need to concentrate on healing the wounds that I have caused to my wife and family," Rep. Vito Fossella, a six-term Republican, said in a written statement.
Fossella, who represents Staten Island and part of Brooklyn, is the 30th Republican to announce they would not seek re-election to the U.S. House of Representatives.
Yet another stick of kindling in the funeral pyre that is the Republican Party.
The American people may not especially trust Democrat politicians. They have not proven themselves especially effective or demonstrated great leadership skills, by and large. But they have not proven themselves as consistently hypocritical or criminal as the Republican Party has these last 10-40 years.
One after another, these "pro-family" Republicans have cheated on their wives, dumped them for younger, "prettier," blonder NEW wives (John McCain, anyone?), explored their sexuality and homosexuality in less-than-healthy ways and otherwise given lie to the "Pro-Family" title.
One after another they have been involved in financial scandals, been convicted of crimes, given pardons to their croneys after THEY were convicted of crimes and otherwise given lie to the notion of Republicans as Rich White Men of Character.
The people are ready for a change. We may not trust the Dems, but at least they're not hypocrites or convicts in anywhere near the numbers as Republicans.
It almost makes you feel sorry for the actually honest and upstanding Republican politicians out there (and I'm sure they exist in the real world - at least they used to; it could be they've gone extinct).
Saturday, May 17, 2008
So, let's put this twist of reality to death.
If you go to McCain's website and look at the Issues link. There are 12 links there, one of which is a link to his speeches and one is another link to "On the Issues". So McCain gives some detail to 10 topics, listed here:
Obama, on the other hand, under HIS Issues link has 23 issues he gives information about. Basically, all or most of McCain's and then thirteen more topics, including plans for Rural America, for Urban America, for Poverty, for Technology (McCain has no plans for these critical areas??) and so on.
Now, let's look at the depth with which the candidates cover these topics. I won't bore you with a detailed study into each of them, I just picked McCain's first topic: Economics.
McCain's economics plan page has 6 pages of text and big pictures.
Obama's economics plan page has 7 pages of text and ONE small picture and one larger graphic.
Fair enough, about the same. BUT, Obama has at the bottom of his page (and I believe on EACH of his 23 topics he gives detailed plans on), a link to an EVEN MORE detailed plan, if you want to read more about it.
On the Economics link page, at the bottom, Obama lists "for more info" and gives links to THREE more documents: His overall economic plan, his plan for small businesses and his plan for the home mortgage crisis.
So, having driven a stake through that beast's heart, let's lay to rest the "He has no plan" BS, unless those who whine about it are ALSO going to spend twice as much time criticizing McCain for having not even a THIRD (at a guess) of the detailed info about his plan that Obama has.
No one need ever repeat that twisted truth again.
[Facts, they're really helpful things.]
Friday, May 16, 2008
And in a landslide.
I've been saying for a while (since December-January) that I was
feeling pretty sure about an Obama presidency this fall. I'm prepared
to go even further now: I expect Obama will win in a landslide, leading the way for huge losses for the Republicans in Congress, as well.
Just an unprovable guess at this point, of course, but here's my
reasons for thinking thusly:
1. No significant group of citizens is excited about voting for McCain. People can and will go out to vote against someone, but voting against someone (Obama in this case) does not generate the excitement and numbers that genuine excitement FOR someone does.
2. There have been few significant complaints againt Obama's actual positions. His general perceived lack of experience may be of concern to many, but his ability to inspire and his reasoned plans, I believe, will overcome most of those concerns.
3. The complaints against Obama's Hopefulness ("He's all inspiration and no content,") will fall on deaf ears, mostly. Being inspirational is not a bad thing. In fact, most people think it is a good thing, I'd suggest. After eight years of a dismal presidency - one characterized by division and inspiring hatred and derision of our nation - people are hungry for a positive, inspirational individual looking to make a change. It's rather like the Reagan phenomena, only hopefully he'll use his ability to inspire for good and not evil.
4. The main targets of attacks against Obama have been very flimsy. Attacks on him because of a few words his former pastor said and attacks on him because of extraneous little things like whether or not he wears a flag pin, places his hand on his heart for the pledge, a line his wife said, blah, blah, blah. If that and his inexperience are all they have, I don't see the opposition winning over droves of people to vote against him.
5. Obama IS inspirational. People are EXCITED about voting for him. It's not a matter of feeling like you're voting for the lesser of two evils, but that many people feel like he's actually a positive
choice for President.
Young people, who traditionally have not turned out to vote in big numbers, are turning out in droves to vote for him, as are others. Enthusiastically so. People WANT to vote for him and I think this is huge. It remains to be seen, but I believe that once the nomination is settled, Obama (who polls show barely beating McCain now - but beating him nonetheless) will experience a big upsurge in support and there will be even more enthusiasm for him.
6. McCain represents - like it or not - the Old Bush way of doing things and that way has not been at all popular. Obama represents a new Way. He strikes folk as a uniter, not a divider. In real life and not words only.
The Republicans' war; their approach to economic, environmental and energy policies (or lack thereof); their approach to torture, human rights and imprisonment; ALL these policies have been deemed unsuccessful and leading us in the wrong way. People will not be excited about voting for more of the same, which McCain represents.
7. The "strengths" of the Republican approach - the ways they've used in the past to win - are starting to lose their strength, or at least against this Teflon Candidate. Charges of being a terrorist-supporter or appeaser, of being unpatriotic, of being a closet Muslim, of being
"black," are not sticking. I think, at least with Obama, the tactics of rumor-mongering, fear-mongering and division based on wedge issues are losing their edge. Again, time will tell. These approaches are probably the Republicans' last best hope for not losing it all this election - the presidency AND Congress - but I'm doubting it.
On that topic, my friend, Michael, has a good run-down of how bad-off the Fall election is looking for Republicans across the board here.
Based on ALL of this, I'm predicting not only an Obama victory this year, but an Obama landslide. What do you think?
Thursday, May 15, 2008
COLUMBUS, Ohio (CNN) -- Sen. John McCain envisions that by 2013, the Iraq War will be won but the threat from the Taliban in Afghanistan won't yet be eliminated, even though Osama bin Laden will have been captured or killed...
"By January 2013, America has welcomed home most of the servicemen and women who have sacrificed terribly so that America might be secure in her freedom.
"The Iraq War has been won. Iraq is a functioning democracy, although still suffering from the lingering effects of decades of tyranny and centuries of sectarian tension," McCain said.
The violence in Iraq will persist, the candidate believes, but it will be "spasmodic and much reduced." But civil war will be prevented, armed militias will be disbanded, security forces will become "professional and competent" and the government will be able to impose "its authority in every province of Iraq" and properly defend its borders...
McCain said he also believes the "threat from a resurgent Taliban in Afghanistan will be greatly reduced but not eliminated" and that U.S. and NATO forces will remain in the country "to help finish the job, and continue operations against the remnants of al Qaeda."
The Amazing 'Cainac was also asked what the spirits have to say about this fall's election.
"The presidency has been won in a landslide," 'Cainac said. "I see a tall, black man in the Whitehouse. There are some fans outside holding banners and cheering. I see some letters... 'O...' 'b...' 'a...'"
And then the Amazing 'Cainac collapsed and said he had to rest, but that the spirits had spoken.
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
Like many folk, I have read the Narnia series several times. The first in the series (sort of) - The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe - which was made into a movie a year or so ago, has been perhaps my least favorite of the stories. But this next one, Prince Caspian, IS one of favorites. And that is largely due to the introduction of one of my favorite characters in all of literature: Reepicheep, the Mouse.
Reepicheep is the leader of a band of two foot tall talking mice and is memorable for his unflinching loyalty to Aslan and his remarkable bravery and unrepentant pride. Being a small creature, a certain amount of pride and hubris is necessary, Reepicheep would tell us.
When a dragon needs to be faced, Reepicheep is the one who steps forward to deal with it.
When Caspian (in a later story) despairingly tells Reepicheep that they will never escape the dreaded Dark Island, he tells Reepicheep, "There are some things no man can face."
Reepicheep replies, "It is, then, my good fortune not to be a man."
Reepicheep is a Mouse above all mice and many humans and I can't wait to see how well he's portrayed in the movie.
A quote (from Voyage of the Dawn Treader:
While I can, I sail east in the Dawn Treader. When she fails me, I paddle east in my coracle. When she sinks, I shall swim east with my four paws. And when I can swim no longer, if I have not reached Aslan's country, or shot over the edge of the world in some vast cataract, I shall sink with my nose to the sunrise and Peepiceek will be head of the talking mice in Narnia.
Wednesday, May 7, 2008
I think Clinton is finished. Someone let her know, please?
On another front, let me just say a hearty and sincere "WAY TO GO!" to John McCain and many of our Republican leaders. Did you see this story?
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Sen. John McCain Monday joined other GOP senators urging environmental regulators to ease rules demanding a sharp increase in ethanol use to help head off further increases in food prices.
The energy bill that passed Congress with bipartisan support in 2007 requires U.S. fuel marketers to increase the use of biofuels fivefold by 2022.
But McCain, the presumed Republican presidential nominee, and 23 other Republicans, including many who supported the bill, called on the Environmental Protection Agency to waive or roll back the law's requirements in order to ease pressure on food and livestock feed prices.
In other words, after it became clear (what many people had predicted well before the fact) that our desires for cheaper gas came at the cost of greatly more expensive food for the starving millions, these Republicans have led the way in telling Bush, "STOP!"
It remains to be seen whether Bush will listen.
Where are the Dems in all of this???
Tuesday, May 6, 2008
It is a problem we will not solve in the next few years, and it is likely to get progressively worse through the rest of this century.
We must not be selfish or timid if we hope to have a decent world for our children and grandchildren.
We simply must balance our demand for energy with our rapidly shrinking resources. By acting now, we can control our future instead of letting the future control us.
Two days from now, I will present my energy proposals to the Congress...
...The most important thing about these proposals is that the alternative may be a national catastrophe. Further delay can affect our strength and our power as a nation.
Our decision about energy will test the character of the American people and the ability of the President and the Congress to govern. This difficult effort will be the "moral equivalent of war" -- except that we will be uniting our efforts to build and not destroy.
I know that some of you may doubt that we face real energy shortages. The 1973 gasoline lines are gone, and our homes are warm again. But our energy problem is worse tonight than it was in 1973 or a few weeks ago in the dead of winter. It is worse because more waste has occurred, and more time has passed by without our planning for the future. And it will get worse every day until we act.
Because we are now running out of gas and oil, we must prepare quickly for a third change, to strict conservation and to the use of coal and permanent renewable energy sources, like solar power.
The world has not prepared for the future. During the 1950s, people used twice as much oil as during the 1940s. During the 1960s, we used twice as much as during the 1950s. And in each of those decades, more oil was consumed than in all of mankind's previous history.
But we do have a choice about how we will spend the next few years. Each American uses the energy equivalent of 60 barrels of oil per person each year. Ours is the most wasteful nation on earth. We waste more energy than we import. With about the same standard of living, we use twice as much energy per person as do other countries like Germany, Japan and Sweden.
One choice is to continue doing what we have been doing before. We can drift along for a few more years.
Our consumption of oil would keep going up every year. Our cars would continue to be too large and inefficient. Three-quarters of them would continue to carry only one person -- the driver -- while our public transportation system continues to decline. We can delay insulating our houses, and they will continue to lose about 50 percent of their heat in waste.
We can continue using scarce oil and natural to generate electricity, and continue wasting two-thirds of their fuel value in the process...
...But we still have another choice. We can begin to prepare right now. We can decide to act while there is time.
[Excerpted from Prophet Jimmy Carter's April 1977 speech
on the energy crisis. A crisis which our subsequent presidents ignored. And so, here we are. Very worthwhile reading.]
Friday, May 2, 2008
(CNN) – Campaigning for his wife in North Carolina, former President Bill Clinton said Wednesday that he’d be “very surprised if oil goes below a hundred dollars a barrel again in my lifetime.”
“There is a limited amount of oil in the ground and everyday more and more people can afford to buy it so they are gonna bid the price up,” said Clinton, who added that drivers have been forced to choose “between driving to work and having enough food for their kids.”
NOW, he's saying that. He had eight years in office to do something about our dependence on cheap oil and our overexploitation of this finite resource, but nothing (much) was done on his watch.
Similarly, Bush has had nearly his eight long years in office with doing very little about this looming crisis. And Reaganbush had an additional 12 years in office. This peak in oil prices was predictable and predicted. Each president since the much maligned Carter has chosen to ignore the looming crisis instead of dealing with. Instead of admitting we have an overconsumption problem, not a price problem. A dependency problem.
Let’s face it, we’re addicts.
We are addicts and our leaders are running around with band-aid
solutions to the wrong problems.
“Maybe things would be better if we could find a local source for drugs,” our pusher-leaders say. “Maybe if we converted our corn to liquor, that would help.” And on and on they pander to the addiction instead of tackling the root problems.
Our leaders since at least Reagan have been facing a Category V
hurricane and wondering about whether or not we ought to put a piece of cardboard over one window and hope that the hurricane doesn’t appear. “Maybe it will be okay? Maybe we’ll come up with some magic device that will protect us from hurricanes – like a magic wall or something??”
In our leaders’ defense, though, I think they’ve only been doing what
we, the people, have wanted. This next president will have to deal with it and it’s not going to be easy. They’ll have to start facing some
serious choices and, well, that’s just no fun.
Maybe we can should still bet that we'll find a magic answer?